Monday, December 31, 2001
» The Universe in One Year. For a little perspective, note that modern humans appear at 11:54 PM on New Year's Eve in this history of the universe.
10:45 AM PST
Wednesday, December 26, 2001
» I received a few e-mails regarding what I said about photography and asking if there was any good books worth reading for a photographer. One book that I recommend above almost all others, is On Being a Photographer a conversation with David Hurn and Bill Jay. Few books even touch the subject of why you should take pictures, and the strong opinions of David Hurn are refreshing in contrast to the 99% of photography books whose authors are afraid to make definitive statements about photography and instead hide behind statements of "Do what feels right to you." Sure, that isn't a terrible statement on its own, but people with strong opinions are considerably more interesting and they at least give you something to work with, whether you choose to agree with them or not.
Other books I would recommend for various reasons- Basic Photographic Materials and Processes. This is the textbook for 1st year RIT (one of the two most prestigious photography schools in the US) students, and I admit that I've only read about half of it. But still, it's made me a smarter photographer, and giving me an understanding of the science (which is something I usually dread) of photography. In this same technical vein, Ansel Adams' set of 3 books - The Negative, The Print, and The Camera are excellent introductory books that, along with Basic Photographic Materials and Processes, will make you smarter than 90% of the photographers out there.
Also, Galen Rowell's, Inner Game of Outdoor Photography is a collection of this amazing outdoor photographer's pictures and essays (66 of them) on every conceivable aspect of taking pictures. His writing gets me excited about travelling and taking pictures, and his in-the-field technical advice can't be beat.
Lastly, a book I just came across, Photographing the Patterns of Nature by Gary Braasch. This book obviously is specific to environmental photography, but gives excellent advice as to opening your eyes to see what's around you. The funny thing is that I'm not crazy about his photography, but I think his writing is excellent and detailled in how he views nature photography.
Beyond those books, simply looking at the books of photographers you admire is the best idea. Personally, I'm always driven to take great photos by looking at photography by James Nachtwey, Sebastiao Salgado, Tobin Yelland, Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe, Mike Nichols, and Daniel Harold Stuart.
09:31 AM PST
Monday, December 24, 2001
"Well, not only am I naturally cantankerous and litigious, but I comport myself in a number of ways that are calculated to incite particular legal actions against me. Thomas Jefferson said that it is every American's duty to violate any law that he feels is unjust, for only in that way can an unjust law be tried in court. I extend that statement to precedents as well. We have a lot of bullshit in our legal system that needs to be corrected. I'm working on correcting them, and I've succeeded in a number of issues (there are, however, a very large number of outstanding issues). I'm fulfilling that duty which is a condition of my membership in Jefferson's grand experiment.
What are you doing?"
"What's the worst that happens when a plumber screws you? You get wet feet. What's the worst that happens when the auto mechanic screws you? Your car rolls over the cliff and you die.
Even with the people who can't hurt you much by screwing you, there's still the issue of negotiating position: if you ever go into negotiations without the ability to walk out of there, you'll get eaten alive. When negotiating with laborers, the ability to walk out of there is dependant on your ability to do their job yourself. If you can't do the job yourself, you're entirely at their mercy. If you can, then you aren't."
"People have been different forever. It's just that back in the days when your conceptual horizon was the border of your village, you didn't have enough of a pool to notice differences. Naturally, people who grow up together (and share a tight subset of the genetic pool) are going to be very similar. But you go to the next hamlet over, and all of sudden things get very different. As your horizon opens up, you start to credibly question whether or not those humanoids in the big city are actually homo sapiens.
We see the differences today so easily merely because we can see a lot farther than before. That's because of the opening of communications that you mention. It hasn't made the world smaller, it's made our horizon wider."
"Naw. The 21st century will be the century of the police state. It'll be a century in which every first and second world nation will have massive private and government survellience, and the governments will have access to all of it. When they will all band together to fight their own citizens, in the name of freeing the world from real and fabricated terrorists. It'll be the century where software that can automatically and accurately analyze, sift, and correlate visual and audio content finally matures to the point where the principle barrier to exhaustive surveillance (manpower) will be rendered irrelevant. It'll be the century in which the populace finally overwhelmingly capitulates to the police state either out of love of the safety and convenience of massive surveillance, or out of a bone-deep sense of the futility of fighting. It'll be the century when the anonymity of the crowd is forever shattered, and intelligence, individualism, courage, and honor are completely alienated from civilized society.
It'll be the century in which the last individualists gather the resources to flee this planet forever, and bar Earth's access to the solar system. It'll see the first offworld combat, either in space or on other bodies, with each side clumsily flailing at the other with weapons and equipment wholly unsuited for low-gravity and hostile-environment warfare."
These quotes are all over the place regarding topic, but they came from the same person. They're from someone who called himself Sinster, who I only knew vaguely from a mailing list I've been on for almost seven years now. It's one of the first mailing lists I ever joined, and one of the most fulfilling in terms of its scope. While his views didn't always parallel mine, his intelligence and humor almost made his posts worth reading, and the vast body of knowledge he drew from often sent me scrambling to search engines and the library to research what he had referenced. He was clearly someone who acted on his strongly-held beliefs, and who felt compelled to share his views.
Sadly, I don't have all my e-mail archives with me, and am only able to post these very few pieces of writing he wrote. Even more sadly, I'll never have the opportunity to receive another e-mail from him. Jon Paul Nollman, aka 'Sinster' was hit by a car, and killed yesterday.
He's missed greatly.
10:01 PM PST
For the past two years, I've spend time each month reading every single photography magazine available at various bookstores near me in NJ, Washington DC, and Portland. In addition, I've read hundreds of books about taking photos, and spending huge amounts of time on the internet looking for even more information. This reading and looking at photographs has given me the bulk of my knowledge regarding the technical skill needed to take good photos.
I enjoy doing this, and probably spend an hour a day (mostly on the web) reading something that relates to photography. What I've realized in the past months though is that few magazines/books/web sites deal with photography in a useful way beyond technical issues of lens, film, exposure and lighting choices. This technical knowledge is essential, and I don't regret the time I spend improving my knowledge of the choices I can make.
But, the real issue of taking pictures- why you feel absolutely compelled to record what you see through your viewfinder at that specific moment, that is rarely dealt with. I've spend a long time looking for a quick answer to this and it doesn't exist. Looking at other photographer's work is a good start, but at some point everything needs to be left behind and you need to search for your own style, your own way of making pictures, and in searching for this, you'll find your own style.
So that's where I'm at. I'm far from having a unique voice in my photography, but I'm ready to forget everything I've learned, and to break away from what I know, to take chances, make spectacular mistakes, and to figure out how to make pictures that are uniquely mine.
06:40 PM PST
Friday, December 21, 2001
» Being a courier for a shipping company means giving up all your luggage space save for one small carry-on piece of luggage. It also means ridiculously cheap airfares to all parts of the world.
I've just added http://www.courier.org/ to my bookmarks.
09:17 PM PST
Thursday, December 20, 2001
Gregg at last looks up from his little monitor. Though visibly dissatisfied with the second take, he announces that a third take won't be necessary. Chris, the cameraman, grins like a hunting dog whose instincts have been vindicated. He's wearing jeans and a corduroy shirt; he looks as if he'd listened to the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd in his youth. Gregg, for his part, seems like a person to whom the Smiths and New Order were important. As he and I drive west out of the city, I wait for him to ask me questions about St. Louis or to joke with me about the tedium and artificiality of what we're doing, but he has messages to return on his cell phone. He has an expensive crew, a marginally co÷perative actor, and seven hours of daylight left.
Wonderful, intriguing article from Jonathan Franzen about his experience with Oprah Winfrey. He was widely criticized about his reluctance at accepting Oprah's offer to have him as a Book of the Month. While this offer would translate into increased sales, it also meant an Oprah logo on the cover of his book, which put Franzen off.
After he agreed, this article talks about the experience, and shows just what a remarkable writer he is. Furthermore, it shows the obvious falseness of most television. I'm on a number of photojournalism-related mailing lists, and the members, many of whom are working photographers for newspapers all over the country, complain about how many people shooting video will stage shots to be shown on the news. As recorders of history, this practice is fundamentally wrong, and it's a good idea to remember that this is done when watching news on the television, and that things are not always as they appear.
10:39 AM PST
Friday, December 14, 2001
» Gallery of Regrettable Food.
08:23 PM PST
Thursday, December 13, 2001
» Problems with commenting have been fixed.
And I would love some participation.
I'll start, my name's Steve, I'm 23 years old, I live in Portland, Oregon. In the past three weeks, I've applied for the following jobs: Assistant Librarian, Web Design Professor at local Community College, Seasonal Santa Photographer, Web Designer at local medical school, and Assistant Editor/Photographer at environmental organization.
I have yet to be contacted by any of these places.
One thing I've found useful since moving to Portland is having a calendar.
In the next three months I hope to take lots of photos, put out another issue of Skatedork, and learn to skateboard better.
I never thought I would buy a filing cabinet.
Yesterday, people found this site by typing in the following search terms, "buying disposable underwear", "rainer maria lyrics portland", "making a plexiglass aquarium" and "foggy and gloomy street pictures".
I think that's it, it's your turn.
03:53 PM PST
Tuesday, December 11, 2001
rainy day concepts
It got dark today around 3PM, or so it seemed, since the sky has been the same sea glass blue all day and began fading in late afternoon. Now it's dark out, and soon the street lamps will give the streets, the sky and everything else a creepy orange glow.
"..I'm the only one left, and ... I have the feeling that it's going to get colder and colder until everything I can see, is going to be covered with a thousand miles of ice, all the earth, right up to the sky and over every bit of land and sea." -Allan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner
I'm reminded of people who live above the Arctic Circle and experience months of darkness at a time. It must be amazing to see the sun again after perpetual darkness for so long.
04:48 PM PST
So why is consumption being promoted during this wartime when a focused effort on not consuming things (like oil) would be of significant benefit? I recommend the read and the gallery of wartime posters linked near the bottom. In going through these, I realized that they're offering good advice for anytime, not just wartime. It's a good thing to be able to grow your own food, to patch up old clothes to make them last longer, to carpool, and to not be wasteful.
11:02 AM PST
Monday, December 10, 2001
» I've gotten the wonderful GreyMatter up and working (goodbye Blogger). That means you can do things like leave comments on what I write, or just continue reading like you always have. Even better, since the program runs on my own site, there's no worries about Blogger being down as it continues to grow so quickly.
So what we've (by that I mean I've) got is no more excuses for a more complete (and updated) record of what I think is interesting, what is not interesting, photography, writing scratched in cement, and links to honest and inspiring conversations like this one.
10:50 PM PST
» "For ten years, the United States has been the staunchest advocate of maintaining a tight blockade on Iraq's access to foreign goods and its oil revenues. These restrictions have failed to loosen Saddam's grip on power. They have failed to force him to give up what is left of Iraq's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. What the sanctions have done, however, is kill. And they have killed more civilians than all the chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons used in human history." - Mother Jones Magazine, December 2001.
10:44 PM PST
Soon to be windowed lofts, out of price, out of reach
(GreyMatter is up!)
10:36 PM PST